I’ve always been what you might call particular. Or, if you’re so inclined, persnickety. I prefer to say I’m exact or, you know, a fan of things being correct.

Whatever you call it, this characteristic has served me well when it comes to my understanding and use of the English language.

Yes, you know it. I’m one of those. I’m a card-carrying member of The Grammar Police. I’m a spelling bee lover. I’m a nerd.

That’s why becoming a professional proofreader was just about the most sensible job change I’ve ever made. (And let me just remind you I have made more than a few job changes in my life.)

So it’s a bit ironic that it was at this very job that I discovered what has become my favorite quote:

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing,
is giving up on being perfect
and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

What? But my job is based on being perfect! If I’m not perfect, then we’re all in trouble!

Um, no. Not really. It turns out that missing a typo on an ad for dog food does not, in fact, cause the world to stop turning.

Allegedly Apparently, nobody really expects me to be perfect.

What a relief! And, honestly, what a struggle. It’s hard for me to accept less than the best, even from – no, especially from – myself. It turns out I’m not alone in this struggle.

Joan C. Webb, a recovering workaholic and perfectionist, has written several books on this very topic, including her newest, It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. This devotional is a collection of daily reminders that God wants and longs to relieve women from living in a continually overwhelmed state. By reducing our unrealistic expectations, we can find the difference between “trying too hard to make it all just right” (mental chase for flawlessness, which is impossible) and “partnering with God for excellence” (enjoying quality in balance, which is not only possible, but reasonable).

Today, I have the opportunity to share with you one of the devotions from Joan’s book.


Mark of a Perfect Perfectionist

To all perfection I see a limit. – Psalm 119:96

For months I meticulously planned for a state-wide writing seminar. I wrote confirmation letters, signed contracts, made phones calls and took notes. Schedules and menus were verified, deposits made, and attendance counts submitted.

I arrived at the hall on the designated morning to discover the speaker and board members standing on the sidewalk in the cold. All doors were locked. A security guard drove by, felt sorry for us and let us in. Once inside, we found no podium, microphone or breakfast setup. I made some phone calls and a half an hour later learned that the mix-up was due to someone’s faulty alarm clock. He would take a shower, get dressed and come set-up for us. Obviously, this would happen past our starting time.

We had no control over these circumstances, but we had a choice: We could ignore reality (remember, that’s the mark of a perfect perfectionist!) and force through our perfectly planned agenda, consequently experiencing mounting stress, or we could smile, be flexible and bypass the frustration.

We chose to laugh and start the seminar late. The situation confirmed to me again that trying to be a perfect person in an imperfect world is impossible. It also showed me something else: I can change. And that’s no small miracle! Thank you, Lord.

Lord, there are obvious limits to all my perfect planning.
Help me learn to be flexible and adjust to changing circumstances.

Make It Personal: What happened to you this week that you had absolutely no control over? What did you like or not like about how you handled it?


This post is part of a blog tour traveling the Internet over the next several days. The next devotional will be posted on A Future Pastor’s Wife on Monday, and you can see all the posts on Joan’s site.

How do you deal with less-than-perfect situations you have no control over?

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